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Clock ticking on SME broadband voucher scheme

The government has urged small businesses to consider applying for broadband connection grants as the scheme nears its end

With just over six months left to run on the government’s broadband connection voucher scheme, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey has urged small business owners to apply for the first-come, first-served grants.

More than 40,000 eligible companies in 50 cities around the UK have now taken up the vouchers, which are worth up to £3,000 and cover the costs of installing superfast broadband.

The scheme – which was extended by 12 months this time last year after initial take-up failed to meet expectations – is administered by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and has £40m worth of funding available in the current financial year.

However, none of this funding has been ring-fenced and with more than 1,000 applications being received each week, according to the government, once the available funding has been exhausted no more will be made available.

“Our offer to small businesses has been a tremendous success and is proving incredibly popular,” said Vaizey.

“More than 40,000 UK businesses have already taken up our offer which is aimed at boosting both their broadband speeds as well as their bottom line. Businesses need to act now to ensure they don’t miss out on this fantastic offer and I’m urging all eligible businesses to apply now before it’s too late.”

As of the end of August 2015, the scheme has seen its strongest levels of interest in London, where more than 11,000 vouchers have been issued. The scheme is also proving popular in north-west England, where 6,344 businesses have taken up the offer, and Yorkshire and Humberside, where 5,734 businesses have taken advantage of it.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have received vouchers have seen a number of benefits, including access to new markets, better communication with customers and suppliers, and improved productivity and customer service.

The voucher scheme is open to companies with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover no greater than £42.4m a year, or a balance sheet of no more than £36.5m.

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